J.R.R. Tolkien took a strong stance against materialism in his presentation of Middle Earth particularly at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.
After Bilbo mysteriously disappeared from the Shire, Gandalf and Frodo have a conversation about the history of the ring and its escape from the clutches of Gollum, and Gandalf speaks quite plainly to the existence of something beyond the material.
“Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it.”
Later in that same conversation, Frodo questions how Bilbo could have shown pity to such a despicable creature, and Gandalf again points to there being a higher power at work that no one can quite comprehend.
“I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.”
Just to make sure that we don’t miss the point, Gandalf again reaffirms to Frodo that he is indeed the one who is supposed to have the ring at this particular moment in history.
“You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.”
Notice the highly intentional language that is used in each of these quotes. There is a design in place. A design implies a designer. Gollum has a part to play. Having a part implies someone writing the script. Frodo was chosen. Being chosen implies someone doing the choosing.
There is something at play in the land that goes beyond the comprehension of even the wisest. There was something happening that pointed to a higher power at work, and that higher power was not part of the world itself. That higher power had a great deal of influence in the world, and that higher power could not be reduced to a materialistic vision.
Therefore, as we begin our journey into Middle Earth over the next several weeks, it is important to remember that underlying the entire story is a clear recognition that there are some things that influence the world beyond what we can see. Tolkien is challenging each one of us to consider the modern assumption of materialist reductionism. Just like Middle Earth, our universe seems to be designed, part of a larger narrative and the chosen creation of a creator. By looking at his world, we very well might be able to learn something about our own.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), 56, Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., 59.
 Ibid., 61.